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North Coast Inland Trail to expand in Norwalk

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Apr 20, 2015 at 12:50 PM

The North Coast Inland Trail will be crossing the heart of Norwalk, Mayor Rob Duncan and Firelands Rails to Trails have announced.

Firelands Rails to Trails volunteers have already begun work on the new portion of the trail on the former New York Central Railroad corridor between North West and Baker Streets on the city's west side. Meanwhile, city officials are making plans to route the trail on city streets through the rest of Norwalk.

"This is a project I've been enthused about since I took office," Duncan said. "It's great to see it come together."

Firelands Rails to Trails has been working with Ohio Edison for several years to gain permission to build about eight-tenths of a mile trail east from its current terminus at North West Street, and an agreement was reached last month. The railroad corridor has been obscured by development through the rest of the city, forcing the trail onto city streets. Signage, along with markings on pavement and curbs, will guide bicyclists through the uptown area, then to the east edge of town.

"Finding the safest route possible is important to me," said Duncan, who son, Daniel, was killed in 2008 when the bicycle he was riding was hit by a drunk motorist in West Virginia. "Daniel regularly rode the trail from Norwalk to Monroeville and beyond, making this project close to my heart."

Altogether, the Norwalk route will add nearly three miles to the North Coast Inland Trail.

For Firelands Rails to Trails, getting the trail through Norwalk is like a dream come true. "The question we hear more than anything is 'When is the trail going to come through town?'" said Firelands Rails to Trails Secretary Joe Missler. "It's great to have an answer to the question."

Firelands Rails to Trails is an all-volunteer group that has developed more than 12 miles of trail across northern Huron County over the past 15 years. With other projects under way by trail partners, it is expected that the North Coast Inland Trail will be complete and continuous by the end of 2016 from Elyria to Elmore, making the trail attractive to long-distance riders.

"We're already seeing cross-county bicycle riders on the trail," said Firelands Rails to Trails President Lance Franke. "That will explode as we get through Norwalk. With the city at nearly the center of the trail, we expect local merchants to get a real boost."

Firelands Rails to Trails is always looking for volunteers to help with trail building and maintenance. For more information on becoming a member and volunteering, go to www.frtti.org or the Firelands Rails to Trails page on Facebook.

"We're really excited to finally connect with the Norwalk city street network," said Franke. "We'll be able to open up the trail to a lot more people who live in the center of town."

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